Could a Bicycle Tax be a Good Idea?

A proposed $10 billion transportation package introduced by legislators in Washington state includes a controversial $25 sales fee on bicycles that cost more than $500. Eric Jaffe explains why such a tax might not be a bad idea.
February 28, 2013, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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After the bike tax was reported in a Seattle Times article last week, the blogosphere erupted with recriminations and counter-arguments. "In explaining why the tax "simply makes no sense," the Seattle Bike Blog pointed to a study showing that riding actually saves local governments money. Cyclelicious noted the disproportionate nature of a bike tax compared to the excise tax on new vehicles purchases."

It's not that those arguments are invalid; in fact there are many reasons to question the value of such a tax (it will only raise $1 million over a decade, it may actually hurt business owners). But as Jaffe explains the real value of the fee would be as "an important starting point in an inevitable discussion about sharing road costs."

"In an ideal world, says [Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance], communities would understand that more bikes on the road mean fewer cars on the road, which in turn means a great deal of maintenance savings. But while bike advocates 'can easily rationalize how we pay our fair share of the road,' the fact is it's hard to explain that position to a car-centric world in a brief window of time. For that reason, a reasonable bike fee can be seen as a small price to pay for silencing the critics."

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Published on Thursday, February 28, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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